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Full text of "My Country And My People"

WOMAN'S  LIFE                    153

the Ming and Manchu Periods, Ch'inhuaiho, the dirty creek
in front of the Confucian Temple at Nanking, was the scene
of many a love romance. The proximity to the Confucian
Temple was appropriate and logical, because it was the
place of the official examinations where scholars gathered for
the examinations and celebrated their successes or consoled
their failures in the company of women. To this day some
editors of small papers still frankly detail their adventures in
sing-song houses, and poets and scholars have written so pro-
fusely about the sing-song tradition that the name of Ch'in-
huaiho has been intimately associated with Chinese literary
history.

It is impossible to exaggerate the romantic, literary, musical,
and political importance of the courtesan in China. Because
men thought it improper for decent family girls to handle
musical instruments, which were dangerous to their virtue, or
to have too much literary learning, which was equally sub-
versive of their morality, and but rarely encouraged painting
and poetry for them, they did not, on that account, cease to
desire female company of the artistic and literary type. The
sing-song girls cultivated these things because they did not
need ignorance as a bulwark of their virtue. So the scholars
all went to Ch'inhuaiho. There in the summer night, when
darkness had transformed the dirty creek into a Venetian
canal, they would sit in a house-boat and listen to the singing
of love ditties by girls in the neighbouring "lantern boats'*
passing up and down.

In this atmosphere scholars sought for those hetaeras who
could distinguish themselves from the rest either in poetry,
music, painting or witty repartee. Of such accomplished and
well-known hetaeras who flourished especially at the end of the
Ming Period, perhaps the one best loved by all was Tung
Hsiaowan, who became the mistress of Mao Pichiang. To the
T'ang Dynasty belonged Su Hsiaohsiao, whose tomb by the
side of the West Lake has become the object of pilgrimage of
every scholar tourist for ages. Not a few were closely connected
with the political destinies of the nation, as in the case of Ch'en
Yuanyiian, the beloved mistress of General Wu Sankwei. Her
capture by Li Tziich'eng during the latter's conquest of Peking